The UK’s most valuable beverage brands - and what makes them stand apart from the rest

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

The UK’s most valuable beverage brands 2020

Related tags Uk BrewDog innocent Diageo The coca-cola company

Six beverage brands make the BrandZ Top 75 Most Valuable UK Brands ranking. What have these brands – which include BrewDog and Gordon’s Gin – done so well to put them alongside big names like Dyson, Jaguar and M&S?

The BrandZ rankings combines both financial data and information from consumer surveys to ascertain a brand value. The UK rankings look specifically at brands born and bred in the UK.

While brands’ response to the coronavirus pandemic naturally plays a part in 2020’s rankings – and indeed the featured beverage brands have all played their part - BrandZ says this year’s rankings are not based on COVID-19 alone.

“Of course, we look closely at the consumer and market changes that are presenting brands with such tremendous challenges right now, and show brands can do in order to better understand consumers and meet their fast-evolving needs,” ​it explains.

“But what’s absolutely clear from our BrandZ analysis is that the battle UK brands face now is based on many trends that were heading their way anyway, pandemic or not.

"There’s no doubt that it has happened sooner and more suddenly as a result of the virus, but it was surely coming.”

That includes the need to think ‘faster, bolder and bigger than ever before’; as well as being smart and agile.

“In our rankings, we show marketers and brand builders the factors that inspire consumers today to select one brand over another in order to deliver strong shareholder returns. No one knows how long this pandemic will last and what the recovery arc will look like.

"What we do know is that for brands to make gains during the recovery, they need to be planning now.

“Corporate reputation, especially environmental and social responsibility, is having a significant impact on brand choice. 

"As consumers rethink what they buy, what they prioritise, how they work and what they want out of life, brands have much to play for.”

'BrandZ analysis consistently shows strong brands provide resilience during periods of market volatility. That lesson was clear in the global financial crisis over a decade ago.'

So who are the six beverage brands included in the rankings – and what have they done so well?

Lipton (#6 overall)

Brand value: $9.1bn USD (£7bn)

As the highest beverage brand on Kantar’s UK list – making the top ten - Unilever-owned Lipton comes out on top of big names such as Tesco, Dove and Cadbury. Why?

“The yellow label of Lipton tea is instantly recognisable around the world, and the brand has become synonymous with both a hot “cuppa” and a growing range of chilled, ready-to-drink tea products,” ​says BrandZ. 

“It is the biggest-selling tea brand in the world, available in more than 110 countries. In the past year, the brand has focused its marketing on a message of togetherness, and how sharing tea with others can help alleviate loneliness. Lipton said that despite millennials being well connected via social media, they often suffered hidden loneliness that could affect their mental health.

“Project Unlonely led to the launch of a global “You. Me.Tea.Now” campaign, which encouraged people to foster quality real-life connections and conversations – over a cup of tea, of course – that could help people feel better. Other advertising has focused on the health benefits of drinking tea, urging consumers to “Love your heart."

Johnnie Walker (#22)

Brand value: $2.7bn (£2bn)


Diageo’s Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker comes in at #22 on Kantar’s list, beating the likes of KitKat and M&S.

“The Johnnie Walker stable of whiskies might be two centuries old; but it is working hard to ensure it is relevant to consumers today through associations with popular culture and a refresh of its iconic ‘Keep Walking’ campaign,” ​notes BrandZ.

“Building on the success of a limited-edition “White Walker” by Johnnie Walker linked to the TV hit series Game of Thrones, the brand in late 2019 launched two collectors’ edition whiskies – Song of Ice and Song of Fire. The brand has also been creating exclusive experiences for selected guests and key influencers in each market to highlight the rarity of Blue Label whiskies.

“Late 2019 saw Johnnie Walker give a colourful facelift to its ‘Keep Walking Campaign’, with updated brand imagery and a mission to put the product and taste experience back at the heart of communications, connecting the brand with a new generation of consumers.”

The brand is also building a £150m Johnnie Walker experience centre in Edinburgh, an attraction designed to pay homage to the Scottish roots of Johnnie Walker, encourage tourists to be brand ambassadors, and boost the city’s reputation as a food and drink destination.

Innocent (#42)

Brand value: $1.5bn (£1.2bn)

Founded in 1999 by three friends selling smoothies at a music festival, innocent is now a multinational business owned by The Coca-Cola Company.

“The brand has steadily extended the range from smoothies into juices, sparkling juice and dairy-free milks, and has now moved into shots combining fruit, vegetables and vitamins, designed for the health-conscious consumer on the go,”​ notes BrandZ.

“The shots followed the launch of an Innocent Plus range of juices made with botanicals and vitamins as well as fruit and vegetables. The brand has always had a somewhat cheeky persona, and it used this to provide some light relief during the COVID-19 outbreak. Its Twitter feed promoted mischief-making among people working from home, such as gate-crashing video conference calls, and helpfully announced the day of the week for those losing track of time.”

Innocent is also building a carbon-neutral plant in the Netherlands, which will produce 400 million bottles of juice a year.

Costa coffee (#49)

Brand value: $1.3bn (£1bn)

Another entry from The Coca-Cola Company, this time in the form of its 2019 acquisition of Costa coffee​, the world’s second largest coffee chain.

“Costa Coffee is a coffee brand with more than 2,600 stores and over 8,000 Costa Express machines across the UK,” ​notes BrandZ.

“The business has a new CEO, with Dominic Paul succeeded in late 2019 by Jill McDonald, who has previously been in senior posts with Marks & Spencer and Halfords. During the COVID-19 crisis, Costa pledged to supply one million free cans of ready-to-drink coffee to NHS staff and other frontline workers as a gesture of thanks.

"The brand’s community work focuses on the environment, and Costa Coffee is promoting recycling of coffee cups and supporting litter-picking events around the country in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy. It recently expanded its partnership with the food waste app Too Good To Go, enabling fans of the brand to buy unsold food at a discount to save it from being thrown away, and has pledged to use only cagefree whole eggs in its products globally by 2025.”

BrewDog (#51)

Brand value: $1.2bn (£0.9bn)

The maverick independent Scottish craft brewer has been busy in 2020: announcing ambitions to go carbon negative;​ launching a new equity for punks round; and opening an alcohol-free bar​ in London.

“The BrewDog craft beer brand takes an anti-establishment approach to both the category and its communications,"​ says BrandZ. "This year, it has also taken a fresh look at the company structure, giving fans of the brand a stake in the business if they traded in 50 empty beer cans as part of a plan BrewDog said charted “a new course for business as it balances profit with people and the planet.

“During the COVID-19 outbreak the brand’s founders announced they would take a salary cut in order to protect workers’ jobs and switched production at BrewDog’s Aberdeen distillery to hand sanitiser. And to help lift people’s mood while its bars were shut, BrewDog created a digital version of the traditional bar experience to encourage regulars to get together online for quizzes, live music and homebrewing masterclasses.”

Gordon’s (#70)

Brand value: $651m (£502m)

gordons gin

Diageo’s gin brand Gordon’s has been around for 250 years with essentially one product, but innovation sees its brand value increase and enter this year’s Top 75 Brands.

“The brand happily finds itself in a category that has more than doubled its UK shopper base in the past few years, but that category growth is partly of Gordon’s own making,” ​says BrandZ.

“Flavoured gins are a large reason for the growing appetite for gin – now the nation’s favourite spirit – and Gordon’s Pink Gin, launched in 2017, brought in a whole new group of buyers to the category and the brand.”

Gordon’s Gin, named after Alexander Gordon, was created more than 200 years ago and is now the world’s best-selling gin, sold in over 180 countries. The brand says that a bottle of Gordon’s is sold somewhere in the world every six seconds.

“London Dry is the classic Gordon’s product, though the range has been expanding with flavoured blends including Premium Pink Gin, Elderberry and – new in 2020 – a Sicilian Lemon variety and a Mediterranean Orange Gordon’s. In late 2019, Gordon’s created a branded experience to spice up London commuters’ journey home, with “The Gordon’s Line” taking passengers along the Thames, with complimentary G&T, snacks and a saxophonist for entertainment.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, Gordon’s partnered with Kaya FM to launch a radio conversation series to support people in the hard-hit entertainment industry.”

How the rankings were compiled

The valuation behind the BrandZ™ Top 75 Most Valuable UK Brands was conducted by Kantar. Ranking combines financial data from Bloomberg with consumer surveys.

Brand valuations lists the brands making the largest absolute financial contribution to the total value of their respective parent companies, considering both current and projected performance – ‘the true value of brand building’. (A company may have a huge overall business value but the absolute financial contribution made by the relevant brand(s) that the company owns may not be a comparatively large figure—at least not a large enough figure to qualify for the given BrandZ™ ranking of brand values.)

To be eligible for the UK BrandZ Top 75, a brand must meet all these criteria:

  • They were originally created in the UK.
  • They are owned by a publicly listed company traded on a stock exchange, or its financials are published in the public domain.
  • British unicorns have their most recent valuation publicly available.

Pictures: main - getty/olegback; inset - Diageo.

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